You hit the top of the mountain and the thud turns into a continual motorized drone.
The floor is a sea of powder, projected by the blades it finds its way into cracks and onto any portion of uncovered skin. A short stooped run, and the next thing you know that sea of snow is dropping away and you’re heading for virgin powder and the ride of your life, welcome to Heli-Boarding!
One of my good friends recently was in BC for The Quiksilver Annual Heli-Boarding outing and I am truly honored to bring you the stories and amazing imagery of that week. ENOY!
Surfing Frozen Water // Where We Land Is Secret
The Quiksilver Annual Heli-Boarding trip was resurrected this year after a short hiatus. The torture of delay was in the air for those who have made the trip in years past. A mix of professional athletes, friends and family of Bob McKnight’s / CEO of Quiksilver were British Columbia bound via planes, trains and automobiles. Destination Tyax, an hour east of Whistler, and a place you can only get to via helicopter in the winter. Where we land is secret.
Avalanche beacon training gave away the safe conditions this year since we were handed a beacon and a glass of champagne in tandem. In years past, you could sense more danger in the trainings when avalanches have taken a few lives in the months prior. I will always remember my first year on this trip when the guide noted, If Kristin dies we will not say Kristin is dead but we will announce #6 is deceased on our radio pointing to the #6 on my beacon. A mild reminder of the possibilities on this powder playground.
Each night before we head out, we tune up our gear and Bob personally prepares the list of groups that will ride together mixing it up for all. The women anxiously wait to see the list to learn how many pro’s they are riding with so they can adjust their anxiety accordingly. With Tony Hawk in tow and monster wave rider Ross Clarke Jones in our camp, good company cannot be avoided. Ross was in the Amazon the day before surfing the endless tidal wave. Mountain rider of all sorts he is not concerned with whether or not the water is frozen or fluid he just likes to ride unknown large masses hence his TV series Storm Rider with legend Tom Carroll. I agree with his mantra When you are closer to death you feel more alive.
The sound of the heli’s coming in and out every am becomes your favorite new soundtrack. Consumed with excitement, when the heli leaves you at the top of a summit, it is so quiet it is uncomfortable. 360 degrees of white peaks and not even the sound of a bird you feel like you are in what I could only imagine to be heaven. Surfing perfect frozen water truly feels like you are flying. You simply cannot feel the snow below you it is so soft. You hear a scream next to you realizing they are screams of joy only to realize you are screaming with joy. It is uncontrollable. Just go straight, Steep and deep, and Tony Hawk’s standard, I am making dollar signs out of your tracks where the verses to our board riding anthem.
A few mild avalanches started, not abnormal, and I quickly was reminded I was riding with surfers when our mate jumped in to the avalanche and chased it. As if he was paddling out to try and catch the swell. I think it was his gut instinct to ride moving water even if it is frozen. Mortified, I enjoyed the moment realizing he was just chasing a wave, a common denominator that brings many of us together on this trip. Ross Clarke Jones (a.k.a. Hellraiser) earned his new nickname Dr. Ross when he took control of a critical situation that left our guide frozen. Our friend, with the heli blades on, had a stage 1 seizure getting into the helicopter. Afraid he was going to get cut, Ross grabbed him, held him down, jammed a glove in his mouth and took control of the situation like a pro. We talked him in to not punching him in the jaw to knock him out (Australian medic style) to prevent our friend from hurting himself. All were grateful Ross was in the heli and brought our friend to safety. Since his office is 50ft waves, I think his animal instincts are sharper than most and his lack of hesitation gave him hero status at the bar that night for saving our friend.
As we come in from the summits each day, the guide refers to his handwritten notebook to add up our team’s vertical feet for the day. 26,000 vf was our total; always a competition between groups who rode more vertical feet each day. It is a race to call shotgun for the best seat in the house on the way in (next to the pilot) to enjoy the thrill of buzzing the lodge.
Drunk on happiness, each day ends with a jacuzzi visit, massages in the spa if you like and a feast that gives birth to all the stories that took place that day. Show and tell is alive. Exhausted from excitement and riding powder all day we retire to our rooms. Reminded our lodge is kids camp for adults when Ross kindly hops balconies to give me a pair of his goggles I was admiring all week. The melancholy of the last day of kid’s camp is sinking in as we start giving away gear to your new mates. Although you can’t hug memories, this trip always leaves you with many and friendships of steel. When you think you are going to die with a group of people and you live, you are close for life regardless of our geography.
Thank you again Bob McKnight, master storyteller and dream trip producer, for designing the perfect powder trip, again, with the best cast in show. Your trips always teach us how to feel alive.
THANK YOU QUIKSILVER, BOB MCKNIGHT AND OF COURSE KRISTIN FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF SHARING YOUR STORIES WITH OUR READERS.